CEO Update - Bravery in all its forms

 CEO Update, Mental Health Australia


Speaking frankly...                                       

Bravery in all its forms

Although busy, this week has also been refreshing, an opportunity to engage deeply with lived experience in manner that continues to teach and motivate me.

At the beginning of the week, under the fig trees in Mullumbimby, I had the privilege of watching a diverse and talented group of individuals share their stories – their unique experiences of mental illness – on stage in front of a live audience at the Renew Fest This is My Brave show.

Bravery comes in many forms. But the courage with which these individuals took to the stage to celebrate, not to confess or reveal their issues, was palpable. In various forms of artistic expression – poetry, music, storytelling and dance – they brought their experiences to life in what was a stark reframing of conditions conventionally thought of as ‘illnesses’, ‘problems’, or ‘afflictions’.  

It was refreshing to see this convention turned on its head, and to see people embracing the many ways their mental health issues had shaped them.

One cannot deny that it takes sheer bravery to stand up and perform in front of any crowd, but to do so conveying one’s true self with such unreserved passion, audacity and vigour is an inspiration. And it was the passion, audacity and vigour, as well as the bravery behind these performances that connected with the audience, prompting recognition and understanding of the strength that is born out of experiences of mental ill-health.

I ended the week with mental health consumer and carer representatives at the Annual Issues and Opportunities Workshop – a gathering for members of the National Register and the National Mental Health Consumer & Carer Forum (NMHCCF). This event brought together another diverse and passionate group of individuals to share ideas and resources, and to use their lived experience as a kind of leverage to advocate for reform.

The Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, gave generously of his own time and energy to engage with the delegates, hearing people's concerns and passion for reform. He also shared some of their journey, and my sense was that this left the entire group encouraged and invigorated.

Throughout workshop sessions, participants did not shy away from addressing the issues that present the biggest challenges: How do we reconcile diverse views across the sector and across stakeholder groups? How do we maintain momentum of energy and purpose in the face of such slow progress? And how do we show respect for those who disparage or fail to understand our experiences, keeping us on the margins of influence?...

Indeed the challenges we face together as a sector are enormous, and our resources are limited. To face this reality and continue to stand up to challenges takes strength, resilience and bravery. But it takes a great deal more bravery when existing challenges are compounded by difficulties associated with stigma and exclusion.

This brings me to another form of bravery…

The continued fight for reconciliation, justice and equality for Australia’s first peoples comes to the fore next week as we commemorate the 1967 referendum with National Reconciliation Week. With this comes the bravery of countless Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have dedicated their life’s work to the reconciliation movement, and to ensuring all Australians value our indigenous cultures, history and achievements.

Mental Health Australia’s Reconciliation Action Plan outlines our commitment to create meaningful relationships, enhance respect and promote opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians within our organisation. But the buck doesn’t stop here…  

Reconciliation of any kind takes an ability not just to tolerate but to embrace difference. Reconciliation, not just between diverse ethnicities or cultures, but between any peoples with discordant views, comes when we learn to embrace and seek to better understand the unique lived experiences of others.

There is always common ground. And when we look hard to find that common ground with others, it can be channelled into a kind of collective power to overcome vast challenges.

As I watched the brave performers at Mullumbimby dispelling misconceptions with courage and integrity; as I listened to carers and consumers recount their diverse experiences while identifying common challenges; and as we are all called to come together to forge relationships based on trust and respect this National Reconciliation Week; there is irony in the fact that it often takes a great deal more bravery to highlight our similarities than to identify our differences.

Warm regards.

Frank Quinlan

Chief Executive Officer



Optimising support for psychosocial disability: webinars for service providers

Mental Health Australia is managing an exciting project to develop alternative ways to reorient NDIS supports for participants with psychosocial disability away from a welfare-oriented model towards a recovery-oriented, investment‑driven approach. As part of this project, we are hosting two webinars to give service providers opportunities to provide their views on optimal psychosocial support services (webinar 1) and the aggregation of these services into typical support packages (webinar 2), which will serve as policy and procedural reference points for the NDIS when planning supports for participants with psychosocial disability...

Webinar 1: Optimal psychosocial services 
Date: Thursday, 14 June 2018
Time: 10am-12pm (EST)

Webinar 2: Alternative typical support packages
Date: Thursday, 9 August 2018
Time: 10am-12pm (EST)

RSVP: If you would like to participate in either webinar, please email Kath Sequoia with: 

  • Your name
  • Name of your organisation, and 
  • Your email address and contact phone number. 

You will be provided with the link to the webinar and pre-reading material upon registering.

Next Week 

The office will be closed this coming Monday for the Reconciliation Day public holiday. The ACT is the first state or territory to gazette Reconciliation Day as a public holiday, marking the first day of National Reconciliation Week and the anniversary of the 1967 referendum. This will be a day for Canberrans to celebrate Australia's indigenous history and culture. 

On Wednesday, I will meet with members of the Mental Health Australia Board, and the National Mental Health Consumer & Carer Forum Executive. 

We will host a second face-to-face meeting with the Mental Health Australia Board in Canberra on Thursday, and Jennifer Westacott and I will be meeting with Secretary of the Department of Health, Glenys Beauchamp PSM, following the board meeting.

On Friday, I will be participating in an ACT not-for-profit CEO forum in Canberra.

Mental Health Australia Member Profiles

Dementia Australia, formerly Alzheimer’s Australia, represents the 413,106 Australians living with dementia and the estimated 291,163 Australians involved in their care. They advocate for the needs of people living with dementia, and their families and carers, and provide support services, education and information. 
Website - is external) Facebook - is external) Twitter - @DementiaAus Instagram -

Care Connect is an independent not-for-profit home care services organisation that has been providing aged care services at home, for over 20 years. Their expertise is providing the right advice and guidance for home care, finding and managing the right services to help people at home with day-to-day activities.  Care Connect have the largest network of trusted service providers nationally.
Website Facebook is external) Twitter - 


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